About a week ago, the NFLPA began notifying new agents that they had passed the CBA exam they took in July in Washington, D.C. I’ve spoken to several agents who passed, and shared their excitement, which is deserved.

For those of my clients who just passed the test, we’re starting to work on their first year in the business, which can be tricky. We start by identifying a general recruiting area/strategy, discuss what’s ahead this fall, and the relationships agents should be starting to develop. Most, if not all, my clients are very receptive. However, it’s not always easy to make suggestions to newly minted agents, and these perhaps more hard-headed souls are the ones I want to speak to today.

In every walk of life, you learn from mistakes. The difference between making them in this business is that they’re usually very expensive to make. You’ll be solicited by an endless number of hucksters promising access to top draft prospects. Others will claim they are connected to top veterans who are nearing their second contract — i.e., their big-money deal, the time when they can really cash in — and that said players are open to new representation. This isn’t true, but you may be tempted to believe them, especially if you’re caught at a desperate moment. You wouldn’t believe the stories I’ve heard of established bankers, financial planners, attorneys and others getting duped by people in this business.

In addition, there are ways to ‘play the game’ that give you an infinitely better chance of success. There are people who it’s smart to partner with and build relationships with (like key people at all-star games, honest combine trainers, and ex-scouts who can give you an honest opinion on players’ potential), and plenty more that aren’t so well-intentioned. I know you feel it’s easy to sniff out the good guys from the bad guys, but it might be harder than you think.

So here’s the takeaway, and I hear this all the time from my first-year clients when we talk after their first draft: you don’t know what you don’t know. I realize you’ve been very successful in your professional life so far, and I’d never deny that. Still, there are so many relationships you need to develop, decisions you need to make, and questions that you need answers to that if you’re not careful, this can be a very frustrating year.

Need guidance? I’m here, and I’d be honored to work with you. But even if you choose not to work with ITL, handle this business with care, and be sure to think long and hard before you make any false moves. Next year at this time, you don’t want to be asking yourself, ‘what was I thinking?’